China’s Haier sets up innovation hub in Tel Aviv

The center will scout for Israeli sensors and Internet of Things to make smarter home appliances

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Galit Jacobovitz (sitting down, left) with Daniel Oleiski, left, standing, and with Wang Ye, third from left and the rest of the Haier delegation during their visit to Israel. Oct. 24, 2017. (Courtesy)
Galit Jacobovitz (sitting down, left) with Daniel Oleiski, left, standing, and with Wang Ye, third from left and the rest of the Haier delegation during their visit to Israel. Oct. 24, 2017. (Courtesy)

Haier Electronics Group Co., Ltd., China’s largest home appliance maker, has opened its first innovation center in Israel, in Tel Aviv, to scout for local technologies to create “smart-home” products for the Chinese firm and boost its global expansion.

The Haier Israel Innovation Center will focus on finding Israeli technologies for Haier product lines, and will be specifically looking at sensor technology, materials, chips, Internet of Things (IoT), smart homes, and energy innovation, Haier and the Start-Up Nation Central organization said in a joint statement late Monday.

Haier, founded in 1984 and headquartered in Quingdao, China, has around 30 percent market share of major household appliance sales in China. The firm has sales in more than 100 countries, and has five R&D centers around the world, according to data provided by the company.

“The decision to open an innovation center is fully aligned with Haier’s strategy: the world is our lab,” said Wang Ye, general manager of Advanced innovation center in Haier’s Appliance Group in the statement.

Haier started looking at Israeli technologies over five years ago and has been exposed to the local tech eco-system through the activities of Start-Up Nation Central, an NGO that connects companies and organizations to Israeli technology firms, Ye said.

Part of Haier’s strategy is focused on smart appliances, Ye said.

“We have been working with Israeli innovations for more than five years. Now we decided to deepen our involvement in the Israeli ecosystem. This is a long term strategic investment,” Mr. Wang Ye added.

The Israel center will be managed by Daniel Oleiski, who will be CEO, and Galit Jacobovitz, a former director of strategic partnerships at Start-Up Nation Central.

“We will be actively looking for Israeli technologies according to Haier’s needs,” said Jacobovitz in a phone interview. “The idea is to find technologies that can be inserted into their products, like making a fridge smarter or an air conditioner more energy efficient.”

The startups identified would become Haier long-term suppliers, she said. Haier does sometimes invest in startups that are strategically important, but until now it has focused mainly on Chinese firms, she said.

At the moment the three-person Israeli Haier team will just be looking for relevant technologies and Haier is not planning to employ engineers and developers in Israel, Jacobovitz said. “As of now, there will be no R&D, but everything is open.”

A six-person Haier delegation in Israel this week has already met with a number of startups, she said.

Haier and Start-Up Nation Central also said they have signed an agreement in which the NGO will help the Chinese home appliance maker to further explore the Israeli innovation system, while Haier will support Israeli innovators to find opportunities in China.

“Helping Haier with continuous access to leading technologies in their fields of interest – IoT, big data, energy — will help them become more competitive, more innovative and more dominant in their markets. Israeli companies will gain continuous access to the new challenges Haier encounters in the markets, giving Israel’s tech sector insight and challenges for new innovations,” said Eugene Kandel, Start-Up Nation Central’s CEO, in the statement.

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